Saturday, May 30, 2015


Bugs! That had been one thing we had been dreading before going on orientation. All manner of creepy-crawlies to come face-to-face with.

It started off pretty tame ... just an average beetle in the room.

 Then we had to run the gauntlet of this fella to get to the bathrooms.

We tried not to think about where the rest of his family might be!
Back in the room, geckos and small lizards were fairly common, but just outside we found this little guy.

Baby dragon?!
 Oddly enough, in the village the supply of wildlife was no less! We often had small tree frogs come and sit on Reuben's bath.

Their other favourite trick was to come inside our house and be on the ceiling above Trudie (always her for some reason). Then every now and again they'd fall off and make her jump out of her skin!

The greener-coloured tree frog also liked to come and visit...

but I wasn't quick enough with the camera to capture it.

Monday, May 25, 2015

In the quiet

Reuben and I are sitting in the window enjoying a rare moment of quiet. Mum left this morning and even my vivacious toddler is subdued. The hum of the aeroplane that carried her away is fresh in my memory and I imagine her looking out at the beauty of PNG at her feet. This is the season for goodbyes and it would seem that it does not get easier. Last hugs, whispered encouragement, snatched minutes before the miles gape between us again. And again I am struck by the sweet sorrow of these moments, of this life.

Sitting here in my patch of silence I reflect again on the cost of this being a missionary thing - for us and for our families. Gazing at my son, I glimpse future goodbyes between us and for a second a strange and frankly awful feeling grabs hold of me. I push it down. Those days are a long way off, but I wonder if this is how mum felt this morning, even after so many goodbyes. We had a great time together and with Duncan's mum when she visited us at Christmas - now we feel grief, but if there can be such a thing, we feel GOOD grief. The knowledge that we love and are loved makes it more painful and more bearable at the same time.

There are more goodbyes on the horizon too. The end of the school year means many are leaving for furlough or 'going finish' (not coming back). This time, some of our 'family' here are returning home for good and our hearts are heavy with the thought of losing them. For a moment I feel overwhelmed, but then suddenly strangely elated. We are so fortunate to have such friends! When we watch them fly away I know there will be tears on my cheeks, but much joy too.

It's still not quite eight in the morning and our world here is waking up. Reuben looks out of the window, spies a friend walking down the road and waves happily. This friend and her smile fill me with hope. Not everyone is going! My friend and haus meri is about to arrive too. I think about the stories of our week we will share and the laughs we will have as Reuben dances around us and tries to steal pieces of our snack. Again, I feel a surge of hope and gratitude.

Reuben looks at me and grins cheekily. He is he is trying to tempt me into a game of peekaboo....and who can resist?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Cooking from Scratch

People's ideas about what constitutes 'cooking from scratch' seem to vary. For some it may mean not buying a ready-made meal, for others it might require only using 'fresh' ingredients. The family we were staying with took it to what was, for me, a whole new level! They had a garden, but the food wasn't yet ready to be harvested, so instead their staple diet was cooking bananas in coconut milk. The bananas grew all around and the coconuts were gathered off the jungle floor.

Our 'Papa' with coconut he has just scraped out of the shell, and bananas behind him
However, whilst we were visiting, they also cut down a sago tree to give variety to their diet. Turning the tree into food is an amazing process...

The first thing is to find a tree which is ready and then fell it.

The trunk can be seen here lying on the jungle floor
Then the bark is cleaned and removed. The bark is pried off such that it can be laid as the basis of a bed on either side of the trunk. Linbum leaves are then laid on top of the bark bed
to catch the sawdust which will be produced. If a sack or tarpaulin is available, it too might be used.

The bare trunk with the bark and leaf bed being prepared
The aim now is to break the trunk down into pieces fine enough to be processed further. The main tool we used was a 'saw', though a mallet is also popular in other parts of PNG.

The two-handled saw with nails in to break up the sago
Then it was a team effort to saw through the trunk, with various members of the village taking their turns.

Sawing through the trunk; the mallet can be seen in use in the background
Once the tree had been turned into sawdust, the work was just beginning. The sawdust was loaded into bags and carried to the nearby water to be 'washed'.

The washing stand, linbum leaves and water buckets
The stand was constructed of a top layer of hessian bag, with two layers of linbum leaves underneath. Sago sawdust was scooped from the leaf on the floor into the hessian bag. Water was then poured onto it and squeezed back out again. The squeezing process was then repeated a few times before the sawdust was discarded and it all started again.

Back up at the house, the product is strained again to prepare it for cooking.

Straining through a sieve
Then it's finally ready to be cooked and eaten in any one of a myriad of ways: fried, baked or 'turned' with dry coconut or some other accompaniment.

'Turned' sago being served
Alternatively, it can be packaged and taken to market to be sold. A useful source of income.

Leaves were used to line a pot and form a case
Then the sago was packed down to fill the pot.
The leaves are tied over and cut off, then the package is ready
Whilst these formed the bulk of the diet, meat was a much rarer commodity. If the the family was lucky, maybe a bush rat or wild pig might be caught in a trap; though that didn't happen whilst we were with them. What we did see were tree-grubs, a kingfisher and (during a visit to a relative) some fish.

No food miles - caught in the water in the background and eaten right there